This is Me

Guess what. Contrary to what you might believe, social media is not real life.

It’s where we post snapshots of the best parts of our selves. Unfortunately, this has created an entire society where keeping up with the Jones’ is 100 times harder, because now we’re trying to keep up with the photoshopped, filtered and carefully selected versions of them.

I remember a couple years back when I posted a picture of my disastrous house with a description about how stressed I was. Someone commented that she could not believe it, because she always thought my life was perfect.

???

Was my social media persona that of a person who had her shit together?

You guys. My shit is NOT together. Not even close. And if I’ve led you all to believe that then I sincerely apologize. My life is a hot mess. Big giant emphasis on mess.

Let me tell you how 2017 went: I walked away from both my marriage and 32 years of religion.

How’s that for starters.

When I say walked away, I actually mean I ran. I ran as far as I could so I could breathe for the first time in years. My faith didn’t just change, or slowly evolve (which would have made everything a lot easier), but the pressure of doubt boiled up until my belief system finally exploded and shattered into a million little pieces. What I found as I was standing alone in the wreckage, was freedom. I was free to think for myself and be myself, but I didn’t know how to do either of those things. I was too frightened to make decisions and too paralyzed to figure out who I really was after years of faking it.

As I took baby steps into a new journey, I learned that along with freedom came major sacrifice, endless mistakes, and the most pain, shame, guilt, regret and worthlessness that one could ever feel in their entire life. When you make a life-changing decision, you can end up hurting people around you. I beat myself up non-stop for it, but I wasn’t prepared for everyone else to join in on the beating. I was still the same person who poured her heart out for others and gave until I had nothing left to give, but my one decision kept defining me. All of the good things I had done didn’t matter. My loyalty to people didn’t matter. I felt abandoned, unloved, and betrayed. I felt the pain of conditional love. I was told I needed to be fixed and that my soul was lost. Some of the time the shame I was feeling was in my head, but other times the words were so real that they stripped me of everything I was proud of and loved about myself.

I ended up hating who I was. And I bet most of you didn’t know this. Because social media is not real life and I didn’t show any of you what was really happening behind the screen.

Well now I am, whether you’re ready for it or not.

I’ve made giant mistakes. I’ve lied and I’ve cheated. I am loud, I talk too much, I am hot-tempered, I am impatient, I’ve struggled on and off with bulimia for years, I don’t cook, my house is usually a mess, I’m always busy and stressed out, I can get overly emotional, I am constantly confused about my faith and what I believe, I feel too much pain when I think about religion, I’m still bitter and resentful about a lot of things, I get defensive, lash out and end up hurting people with my words, I’m sad and I’m broken.

But an epiphany came to me recently in the most unlikely place – the bathroom floor. This is where I always end up when my scars are sliced open by hurtful words again and again. I was alone and crying, when the song This is Me from the Greatest Showman Soundtrack came on, and instantly my self-loathing transformed into self-love. It reminded me that I’m also extremely compassionate, loving and loyal. I’m an amazing mother and fantastic friend. I’m creative, talented, kind, fun, passionate, forgiving, motivated, hard-working and giving. I don’t want to try and fit in; I want to be loved just as I am. I no longer have to be defined by my mistakes and I’m learning to stop being ashamed of myself. This doesn’t mean I won’t continue to work and improve my flaws, but I also don’t need to hide them anymore.

Wouldn’t it be refreshing if we all stopped comparing ourselves to people in real life and especially in social media fairytale land? Then maybe when our shit isn’t together we wouldn’t feel so isolated and alone.

I don’t ever want you to feel alone, which is why I came up with the idea to take a photo essay of my real life. Life is hard and messy and beautiful and I wanted to document all of it. This project became my therapy and way to heal, as well as the creative outlet I so desperately needed. In order to accept who I really was, I photographed every part of myself without worrying about what people would think, which was hard. So hard. Posting this will be even harder. But I need you all to know that my instagram account does not represent who I am. 

Therefore, I present to you the raw, vulnerable and non-glamorous behind-the-scenes look at my life. 

Please press play on this video because the music is part of my photo essay. 

 

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This is ME:

I hope these photos and my story encourage you in some way. If nothing else, I need you to know that no matter what you’re going through that you’re not alone, you are glorious and you are all warriors! I would love to do a follow-up post with your photos! If you would like to join me and share a piece of the real you, then submit a This is Me photo by e-mail to jovialphotography10@gmail.com. I will select as many as I can for my next post.

20 comments

  1. You should feel so amazing for doing this. For sharing your life in such a personal and genuine way. I’ve known you for what seems like forever and have loved you for who you are – and I know that many do too. The beauty in this is truly stunning, so much so that I had tears in my eyes reading, listening and viewing. Thank you – from me and for all those that will benefit and feel whole from the vulnerability you just so lovingly shared. Xoxo

  2. You are beautiful, Jess. I find that in our darkest moments is where we find the best parts of ourselves. I sincerely appreciate you showing this part of yourself because there is so much I don’t put out in the open for others to see…and it’s nice to know I’m not alone.

  3. Wow, this is an incredible post! Thank you for being so transparent and brave. I’ve been looking up to you as a inspirational photographer for a while now, with the impression that you’ve perfected and almost effortlessly managed your successful photography business, rePurpose, your beautiful girls, and all while traveling and making a difference for the causes you care about. I know that’s not realistic to imagine this all happened effortlessly, as I’m positive it took a ton of hard work and dedication, all while dealing with the chaos of life’s complications along the way. That’s one way I think social media has been damaging to my own self-esteem, always thinking everyone is just killing it and doing so much better than I am in this way or that. It is SO refreshing to see so much honesty from you and it’s just one more reason to be inspired by you – thank you for this! ❤️

  4. Jessie, This is the most beautiful, raw, powerful, and inspiring thing that i have read.I think that it was so brave of you to post and expose the truth and write whats in your heart and bare yourself to the world.

  5. This had me in tears. I don’t know you personally, but many of my friends do. I’ve seen your photography and repurpose and I just always thought how beautiful your life must be. Recently, I’ve noticed and realized how much pressure I put on myself to be “perfect” because of facebook/instagram/pinterest ect, especially as a new mom. I just see all these posts and think wow, I’m really a mess and have no idea what I’m doing. Thank you for this from the bottom of my heart. It really made me feel not so alone in my worries and thoughts. Everyone really does have their own struggles that we don’t want anyone to see because we’re ashamed, but I’m starting to not feel that anymore. I think it is so amazingly refreshing to just be open and honest about our lives, the beauty and the chaos. Thank you again for putting this out there.

  6. Cryinggggg. Girl, I hope you feel proud. THIS is life. And REAL. And makes my heart happy that people like you still are around 💓💓💓💓💓 Keep on doing you, because you truly inspire others on SO many levels. We all have secrets and we all learn to hide them so well. This is exactly what I needed to read! Because like you, I live in the real world. AndI too break down and knowing you not alone , not crazy, is so relieving.

  7. Jess–I don’t think I’ve EVER seen such vulnerability, candor, courage and reality from another human being in my life. Thank you for this. Your point about social media and its carefully cultivated presentation of “life” (“Pleasantville” comes to mind) is powerful and so accurate, it’s haunting. Your leadership–and you are a leader, if ever I’ve seen one–here in this achingly real, painful and shattering post may just help all of us be a little more authentic and a little less about “keeping up appearances” IF we grasp what you are communicating. The truth is we’re all hot messes. Most of us are just not brave enough to admit it. You and this post are a gift. Thank you. Wow. Please keep writing and fighting. #respectandlove

  8. This is amazing and beautiful! You should be so proud of yourself! To be a great mom, you need to be happy and find yourself! Keep being strong, brave, sassy, honest, and creative-no apologies. I miss you! Thank you for sharing!

  9. I’m floored. I didn’t know whether to get up, cheer and yell “F@#% Yeah!” or cry my eyes out. What’s amazing about this is you could literally remove you and replace me and this is also my 2017. The deconstruction of my faith left me on an isolated island all by myself feeling abandoned and alone. Everything I’d known suddenly sifting sand beneath me and nothing to hold onto. This has to be the most powerful and truthful representation of life, and life after damaging religious indoctrination. My friend you are a complete inspiration and this is one of the most powerful testimonies I’ve seen. I’m glad you’ve found YOU. I found ME too. Cheers <3

  10. Not much I can write after reading this, except this was raw, real and beautiful. I’ve been there and felt much of this but could never capture it as well as you have. Thank you Jess! ❤️

  11. First of all, I love the pictures. Second I really like the build up tension in the pictures, I can really feel the raw emotion in your work. Well done!

  12. Jess you had me in tears also and yes you have made me realize i am not alone in a lot of the same feelings and ways i live . You have touched some personal issues i too live with , I too struggle with demons and skeletons . You are a inspiration not just to me but i am sure many others . Thank you so much for doing this and being so honest with this all. I think your a great person , mom , friend from what i have seen . NO i don’t see you often but when i have you are always with an Hi how are you or similar . Keep up with all you do and who you are .

  13. Thank you for sharing!! Life is not always butterflies and rainbows like we would like it to be. I only ever wanted to share and focus on the good beautiful moments in life so I might be able to forget about the pain, heartache, and tears cried at night while the house sleeps. Shit I cannot even wait for the house to sleep anymore. The pain just comes when it comes. You really do dig and find a stronger version of yourself through the ashes and tears. I have been learning this myself. Beautiful blog.

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